Top 5 Best Comics of November 2009

I read 19 comics in November, and these were the best.

5. Astonishing X-Men #32

Yeah, that’s a badass sentinel, a badass, brood-shooting-from-fingertips sentinel, the bastardization of Beast’s theoretical research. It’s Ellis being Ellis, writing pitch-perfect X-Men. Each issue is episodic, building a plot as it goes. This chapter involves the aforementioned sentinel, with lines like, “We don’t need weapons. We have science!” It’s glorious fun.

4. Fantastic Four #573

Hickman’s Fantastic Four is even better than his Secret Warriors? How’d that happen? But it’s true, even when Dale Eaglesham takes a break, and we’re left with a “filler” issue. Neil Edwards fills Dale’s shoes, and it’s a fine fit, with Edwards’ post-Bryan Hitch style and Paul Mounts’ colors, you’ll hardly notice the difference. But Hickman’s distinguished voice is the star here, penning a done-in-one adventure that could’ve easily sustained a four-issue arc. Hickman plays with, and adds to, Millar’s toys, exploring a black hole-ravaged Nu-World. This is a dense, grand adventure, and the new letters page, hosted by Franklin and Val? Absolutely adorable.

3. Invincible #68

The regular art team is back with a vengeance, allowed the opportunity to create Kirkman’s zany, new Dinosaur villain. This is about as playful and unique as villain dialogue gets. Kirkman then continues to show off his dialogue skills when he gives Atom Eve’s father the scariest monologue Mark could ever imagine, concluding with one hell of a funny sight gag. The issue concludes with a few classic Kirkman twists. All in all, this is one hell of an Invincible issue.

2. Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #8

Another Hellboy chapter concludes, and Alice sums it up best, “Well, I didn’t see that coming.” Mignola embraces Hellboy’s entire mythology here, Alice herself being the baby from the beloved “Hellboy: The Corpse.” What occurs within these pages has been a long time coming, and it unfolds unpredictably, yet resolves with the doomed conclusion we all knew was coming. Every major Hellboy player progresses, even poor Gruagach, who’s almost as tragic a character as “Big Red” himself. A stunning effort from Mignola and Fegredo.

1. Detective Comics #859

Since Rucka & Williams’ run began, almost every issue of Detective Comics has made my “Best of the Month” list. This issue is the best of the run, so it’s only natural that Detective finally tops my list. We’re still taking a trip down Kate’s memory lane, this issue containing another episode of her life. We learn of Kate’s rise and fall at West Point, her utter loss of purpose, how that leads to trouble with the love of her life, and what finally makes Kate’s life whole again. And there, making it all epic poetry, is Williams and Stewart. And as you can see in the above scan, when Kate’s Mazzucchelli-styled life clashes with Batman’s rich, painted aura, it’s beautiful and profound.

-Bruce Castle

Review: Invincible #65

Writing: The Conquest commotion has calmed down. This is, as it says on the cover, an aftermath issue. There is absolutely no action to be found here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. Kirkman takes a minute to check in on the building threats, and remind us that Cecil is still a bit of a bastard. At its core, this issue is about Mark and Eve’s relationship. What are the ramifications of the event taking place on the cover? And what effect does the Conquest-inflicted trauma have?

Art: Ottley has been bringing us the gore and partial nudity in the last few issues. The former is absent, but there’s still a bit of the latter here. Ottley also gets to render some welcomed comedic moments. Just check out the preview. That bit of saliva flying from Mark and Eve’s mouths is classic.

Final Word: This is a transitional issue, for sure. It lays the groundwork for future events, and leaves us wanting more. It’ll be very interesting to see Mark’s actions after his epiphany on the last page.

Grade: B+

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Top 5 Best Comics of July 2009!

June was a quick month, but July? July took forever, in a good way. Extremely eventful month for me. Hope you all had fun. Anyway, I read 22 comics in July, and these were the best. Oh, and, sorry, I haven’t written proper reviews for some of these because I was at Comic Con.


5. Secret Warriors #6

This ended a little more conventionally than I would’ve hoped, but it’s still a fitting conclusion to Hickman’s first arc. The characters are clearly defined, and, so, we actually care how this big battle plays out. Throughout this arc, this issue included, we’ve been treated to several twists & turns that really elevates this material. This is Hickman’s first foray into the world of super-heroics and he’s already delivered the Nick Fury series we’ve all been waiting for.

4. Detective Comics #855

Only two issues in and Rucka & Williams are collaborating brilliantly. The art services the story and vice versa. What we’re left with is one gorgeous, kick-ass comic! The only problem is that we still don’t have much connection with Kate, but, with this issue and the last, we’re getting glimpses of Kate’s origins. So, until that story is eventually told, we might as well enjoy the beautiful ride.

Seventh Soldier’s Review

3. Invincible #64

Well, essentially, this was just a gory, knock-down-drag-out fight to the death. However, since we’ve had over sixty issues with Mark & friends, there was a large amount of emotion in this fight, both for the characters and the reader. And, credit to Kirkman, this was a pretty fun fight.

2. Ultimatum #5

I probably have a “Why Ultimatum Works” article in me somewhere, but I won’t write it. There’s no point. People are extremely prejudiced when it comes to Loeb’s recent work, and if I were to write such an article, it would be met with outcries about how stupid I am. Ultimatum was a necessary evil. The Ultimate Universe had grown too dull, too watered down, too similar to 616. If you aren’t going to give the Universe a proper reboot, presenting an Ultimate Universe in the style of Morrison’s Marvel Boy, isn’t this the next best thing? Oh, sure, it reminds us of the issue of Radioactive Man when he and Fallout Boy get killed on every page, but have we ever seen anything like this before? The tragedy is quick and brutal. The genuine shocks are plentiful. And, really, this comic is packed with the imaginative stunts that couldn’t be seen in a movie. Whether you love it or hate it, Ultimatum #5 one of the most memorable comics in years.

1. Batman and Robin #2

In two issues, Morrison has established a new Batman, a new Robin, new villains, even a new, more colorful Gotham, and he’s done so with professional ease. You’ll find no lengthy exposition here, just fresh and exciting adventure. And, of course, Morrison’s longtime collaborator, Frank Quitely, has helped tremendously in breathing new life into this franchise. His style is already radically different from what you saw in All Star Superman. It’s looser and more energetic, which has helped in rendering some incredible fight scenes in this second issue. This is one of the most likable comics on the stands, and the best comic in July.

My Review

That’s my list. What’s yours? Oh, and let’s keep that Ultimatum feedback to a minimum, shall we?

For more comic goodness, go here.

Top 5 Best Comics of June 2009!

It’s that time again! Boy, June went quick. We’re halfway through 2009? Wow. Anyway, I read 19 comics in June, and these were the best.

5. Invincible #63

I hate putting this at number five, but this comic is hindered in a monthly format. There is no good jumping-on point. You have to read the whole thing, and rating one issue is like judging twenty minutes of a movie. That said, this is an emotional issue. I’m sure it’s no secret by now that a major character dies. Hell, it was already pretty obvious if you looked at the cover of Invincible #64, but even so, this is one of the best Invincible issues. And that’s saying something.

My Review


4. Detective Comics #854

Even if this issue would’ve been terrible, I would’ve forced my brain to like it. Thankfully, to preserve what little respect I have as a comic critic, this actually is a great issue. Greg Rucka finally gets a chance to define his Batwoman, and he doesn’t waste a panel. We’re not going to get the official origin until the next arc, but even after one issue, I know a good deal about what makes Kate tic. But what really makes this comic special is the pure brilliance of Williams’ art. The co-feature is the icing on the cake.

Seventh Soldier’s Review



3. Batman and Robin #1

June was a great month for comics. Want proof? The new Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely comic wasn’t the best of the month. How the hell did that happen? Ok, I do wish this comic had more depth and weight, like Morrison’s earlier Batman work, but other than that, this issue is near-flawless.

Group Review


2. Astonishing X-Men #30

Ellis’ first Astonishing X-Men arc finally concludes. Was it good? You bet your ass it was. I can almost guarantee you I’ll think of it in January, when I post the best stories of the year list. Ellis, in just one arc, has already done a few things. First and foremost, he’s provided possibly the greatest characterization of the X-Men ever. They’re all real characters. They all have their own unique voice. Second, Ellis has taken the X-Men to the perfect genre, sci-fi. I want my X-Men to occupy the realm of science, instead of the done-to-death, political commentary genre. And this first arc was not only sci-fi, it was a mystery too!

DC Lebeau’s Review


1. Uncanny X-Men #512

This issue is a done-in-one. So, yes, it does have an advantage in this format, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve this spot.  This issue is a done-in-one, time-travel adventure, filled with science, mutant history, originality, and humor. It’s also wonderfully rendered by the great Yanick Paquette. Is that not enough? Well, then I’ll also mention that this is one of the few comics that nearly brought me to tears. It’s good readin’.

My Review

So there it is! Agree? Disagree? Please, let me know!

May’s List

April’s List

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Invincible #63

This is a huge week for comics, but forget about that Captain America hype, this comic contains the real, mind-blowing event. Robert Kirkman even said so. You trust him, right?

This issue was brutal. Yes, I knew what was coming. For some reason, the covers already spoiled things, but that didn’t make the event any less harrowing. This issue, like the last, went by very quickly. However, it wasn’t due to lack of dialogue; it was because I’m so deeply invested in these characters. I was completely sucked in, right there with Mark as he watched the unthinkable happen.

The entire art crew, Ryan Ottely, Cliff Rathburn, and FCO Plascencia, produce a beautiful book. Every bit of blood, bone, and terror is captured wonderfully. My one minor complaint is that I wish I knew more about Conquest. It’s one thing when a hero’s nemesis does something terrible, like the Red Skull killing Captain America, and quite another when some powerful jerk falls out of the sky, like Doomsday. Conquest falls into the latter category, which disappoints me. Although, I know a lot of people like Doomsday, so perhaps I’m in the minority. Either way, Invincible #63 is as good as this series gets. I’m utterly heartbroken, and I can’t wait to see Conquest get his face smashed in.

Grade: A

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Review: Invincible #62

Invincible #62

Last issue, we found out what Conquest is. And what he is, is the badass Viltrumite of badass Viltrumite’s. The entirety of this issue is spent watching Mark and Conquest beat on each other. It was a good issue. I can’t really comment on the plot much, because there wasn’t much plot to comment on. All I know is that I love Mark, and Conquest is a hell of a villain. I still want to know how he lost his eye and arm.

What I can comment on, is Ottely’s art. I neglect to do so at times because I think he’s so consistently good. I read an interview with Ottley where he said that his work on early issues was bad. I was stunned. I don’t remember Ottely’s art looking poor. Sure enough, I looked back on earlier issues, and I have to say, the man has really improved. Want proof? Go read or reread Invincible #60. The man had to pack so much action, characters, and emotion into a small space, and he succeeded.

Kirkman, in his usual afterword, expressed his dislike of comic fans who cry “It only took five minutes to read.” I agree. I know several fans that do this, and it bugs me. Why would you just read the words and glance at the art? THIS IS COMICS! Gaze at that art. You’re paying for it, and you deserve it. So, this issue didn’t contain much dialogue, no doubt pleasing the fans who complain that Kirkman is “too wordy,” but it was still good. And Ryan Ottely is the reason why.

Grade: B-

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Invincible #61 – Spoilers!

Invincible #61


This is Invincible War: Aftermath. So, of course, after all the craziness, things slllloooowwww dooowwwnnn. Mark is depressed, understandably so. How would the world feel if a bunch of versions of you destroyed everything? Powerplex shows up again (Wow. That was quick. Is this guy the new Mauler Twins?). Eve is hurt, so Mark meets her parents. The Starro-like-things subplot is mentioned again. A new Guardians of the Globe team is discussed. Oh, and Conquest shows up. Who is Conquest? A badass Viltrumite, complete with a scarred eye. I loved Mark’s reaction: “The only thing I’ve wanted since all of this happened was something to hit as hard as I can.” I have a friend who grieved recently, and he felt the same thing. It’s a good time to be an Invincible fan. Jump on the trolley, now!

That kind of scares me, though. That’s also the cover to Invincible #64. Ever since that Walking Dead cover with Tyreese, all of Kirkman’s covers seem accurate to me. PLEASE DON”T KILL EVE, KIRKMAN!

Review: Invincible #59

Invincible #59


Now that Invincible’s 50’s have concluded, it’s time to evaluate. This was perhaps the best “decade” in the series. I’ve already mentioned several times how much I adore Plascencia’s coloring. The book looks sharper. As a friend put it, “Whoa! It looks like it’s in high-def.” Kirkman has further developed his writing. There was a time when he would’ve been incapable of producing an issue like #59. Kirkman has finally embraced compressed storytelling and I couldn’t be happier.

As I reflect on the 50’s, I realize just how much has been accomplished. The status quo was changed, Mark and Eve’s relationship has flourished (Rock the Casbah!), Kid Omni-Man may be evil, the Mauler Twins are dead, Nolan and Allen are free, and Angstrom Levy is about to return in a big way. All that and more, way to go Kirkman!

This issue is a done-in-one from a villain’s perspective. We’ve seen this story before, but that doesn’t soften the emotional gut-punch. The aforementioned stupendous coloring increases the tear-inducing finale. With the upcoming Image crossover next issue and the Conquest storyline, this is the best time to be an Invincible fan.

Review: Invincible #58 – Spoilers!

Invincible #58


Again, I have to make this a spoiler review because I would just repeat myself if I always have to just talk about how great it is. This issue had a 16-panel grid page structure so a lot was packed in. That made this is a fantastic issue!  So much so, I’m doing a page-by-page review. Enjoy!

Pages 1-2: I’m not the only one who thinks Oliver is going to go bad, am I? This first page provides another creepy moment. “You’ll be faster than me in no time” and then an interesting look on Kid Omni-Man’s face. Then a smoking hot Eve walks out of a prison. I wonder what she did for Mark. Stay tuned!

Pages 3-4: Man do I love Monster Girl! She’s so awesome! Robot may have found a cure? That’s great! The faster the disturbing thought of Robot and Monster Girl having sex gets out of my head the better. Immortal and Dupli-Kate are buying a place together and they may have children? Um, first of all, he’s really old. Does his plumbing still work down there? Second, what happens to Dupli-Kate and pregnancy? Do all of her dupes get pregnant too? Or if only one does, how many does Dupli-Kate want? I guess that’s an easy way to have two kids quick. But what if she has twins? I hope Immortal has the cash!

Pages 5-6: Wow, Eve looks hot again! Sorry, but Ottley’s art is fantastic and FCO’s colors make things phenomenal! Then we check up on Aquarus? Why was this here? I mean, I guess Kirkman is planning to do something with him soon, but this seems like Kirkman abusing the format. He could have made this page better.

Pages 7-8: Eve has a surprise for Mark (What is it already?) and Eve’s nemesis sucks (Which was kind of funny), moving on.

Pages 9-10: Invincible finds out about the surprise (And we still don’t know what it is). Shapesmith tricks Art the tailor. Now that was funny.

Pages 11-12: Darkwing feels bad about killing. So I guess we’re supposed to root for Cecil’s team too, Kirkman? Ah, finally, we learn what this surprise is all about. Invincible is now a hero for hire. Working for prisons and stuff he’ll get money to buy a place for his woman. That’s cool.

Pages 13-14: Mark lays Eve down by the fire. Does this mean we’ll see Allen the Alien? Damn it! No Allen on the next page, it’s just Oliver and his teacher. Was this moment creepy or do I just have a dirty mind? His teacher talks about how much she likes the kid and how she’ll never stop teaching him. That’s ok. He then says “I like you, too”. That’s still fine, but then she asks “Where is your mother?” Doesn’t that sound a bit perverse?

Pages 15-16: Invincible catches one of those Angstrom Levy balls. We then check up on the astronaut with all the squid-aliens. Heck, he even says “soon”. I told you there was a lot in this issue.

Pages 17-18: So this is where Monster Girl supposedly gets cured. But see, I always think of Robot as a villain. Remember when he was all sinister for a moment there? And maybe it’s also because I just read Secret Invasion where the Wasp got something that supposedly helped her, but it then almost killed everybody. I just have a feeling that something bad will come from this.

Pages 19-20: I love the page with all the alternate Mark’s. They all have familiar color schemes. So I guess we’ll always like the same colors no matter what reality? There’s a full on Viltrumite Mark, complete with a mustache. There’s like a burned one, and a non-superhero one, and an Omni-Man one. I think my favorite might be the Morrison/Quitely-esque Mark with the Travis Bickle (From Taxi Driver) hairstyle. And then of course we get the full-page-splash of Angstrom with a funky new costume and he says the classic villain line, “It’s a start”.

Bruce Castle Presents: Invincible & Wolf-Man Team Up!

Invincible #57

Invincible #57 (***1/2)

Invincible Super Fun Happy Team-Up Go! So Mark investigates that camera thing that spied on him last issue. He checks on Cecil because who else would spy on him? Maybe the person you think is dead, Mark? This is comics, kid. Get used to this nonsense. Anyway, Cecil has a job for him. Go check on Wolfie. “Okey doke” says Mark. He fights a big giant with Wolf-Man and then is all “I’m here to get you, bitch”. And Gary’s all, “Dude I was OJ’d”. So they fly to Cecil’s pad and violence ensues. Next issue (Was that a spoilers review? Oh well, sue me).

Astounding Wolf-man #11

Astounding Wolf-Man #11 (***1/2)

Things resolve. That’s the end of my summary, now the “real” review. This was a decent team-up, but far from great. I think it was more Kirkman trying to get his Invincible readers on Wolf-Man. Or maybe for his Invincible readers to stop reading just the trades. There are a few cool things though. So usually the heroes start as enemies and then unite to fight a common foe, right? But here, there’s only one punch. They’re pretty much on the same side the whole time which leads to the other cool thing. Gary and Mark have a lot in common. They both got screwed by their “friends”. It’s humorous of course when we start to realize this. Don’t worry, this stuff isn’t bad, but it does seem to be a dip in quality for both books. But hey, I can’t complain much. Both issues came out in the same week and we already had an issue of Invincible and Wolf-Man this month. Yay Kirkman!

Bruce Castle Presents: The Invincible Detective

Invincible #56

Invincible #56 (***1/2)

The…art…is…so…pretty. Sorry I had to wipe the drool from my mouth. We get to see Eve naked in this issue. Well, comic book naked, which of course means all the good parts are conveniently covered. This is probably the worst issue since the revamp, but the new colors are so beautiful I hardly cared. Simply put, Mark finds Amber with a messed up face and he gets mad. That’s pretty much all the new info we get in this issue. Besides the art, I’m also not too bumbed because I just heard that Kirkman is going to cram an entire crossover into Invincible #60. Cool, right

 Detective Comics #851 (Variant Cover Edition)

Detective Comics #851 (***)

Dennis O’Neil on Batman? Check. Last Rites tag? Check. The story is called “Last Days of Gotham”? Check. This has to be awesome, right? Wrong, it’s just mediocre. That’s sad, isn’t it? Do we need another Nightwing and Two-Face story? A new character is introduced, that’s cool. But it’s some lame female Two-Face character. She is pretty though, which leads me to the art. Guillem March is a newcomer who I guess drew some Poison Ivy thing. That makes perfect sense because he draws the female form the best. Sure this new character looks like Charlize Theron at times, but she is pretty. March’s style looks very cartoony, kind of like Anime. I liked it well enough. But the main problem here is still the story. Did anyone think this would just be usual filler? Gaiman’s issues can’t be like this too, can they? Nah.

Bruce Castle Presents: Kingdom Come Magog vs. Invincible Conan

JSA Kingdom Come Special Magog #1 (Variant Cover Edition)

JSA Kingdom Come Special: Magog (****1/2)

Ah villain comics, how I love you. This is the cool part too, before they become a villain. In fact, I’m pretty sure we witness Magog’s transformation here. “Once the course of a river’s changed, it’ll never be the same”, sounds like it, right? I think Tomasi is a pretty good writer. His heroes are mediocre but his villains are fantastic. He’s in his element here and he really delivers. Both of these Kingdom Come specials have punched me in the gut and I hope Johns can continue that next week.

Invincible #55

Invincible #55 (*****)

This issue opens with Mark and Eve having sex and so of course that means we check up on Allen the Alien. Am I the only one who wants Invincible to get laid more? First off, that expression on the bottom of the first page was hilarious when Eve warped off their clothes. Second, Allen the Alien is awesome! This issue’s events have been in the motion for a looong time, but I couldn’t be happier with the turnout. Actually, I’m glad that this took so long because now we have FCO (Yes I’m bringing it up again!) on board to really make things pretty. This is a prison breakout baby! A lot of fighting and awesomeness hooray! Oh and Battle Beast returned! Do people still remember him?

Conan the Cimmerian #5

Conan the Cimmerian #5 (****)

The enjoyment continues! “The Wolf’s Promise” is an apt title. This issue is all about promises. Truman not only provides entertainment, he also has me intrigued. Will Caollan join Conan’s adventures? That’d be awesome. I do love a badass chick, but what about the baby? Will Conan meet up with Connacht soon? See, it’s interesting. Oh and of course the art has to be good with all that action right? Well, Giorello and Corben definitely deliver. Man, this has been a great year for Corben. He did a fantastic Hellboy mini and some Conan interiors, how cool? Oh and I usually forget to mention it but these Frank Cho covers rock. How can you not read this book?

Bruce Castle Presents: Teen Heroes Have Girl Troubles!

Invincible #54 (****1/2)

Gosh this book looks pretty. I know I’ve said that in like every review of this book since FCO Plascencia took over, but it’s so true! And without the art being so amazing this issue wouldn’t be nearly as good. After all, the last five pages of this book are practically wordless. This is one of those fun future stories that gets the hero thinking about stuff. It doesn’t seem stale and it’s entertaining which is good enough for me. Oh, and the crazy violence continues. Seriously, Kirkman is writing as fine as ever, but the art is a big big plus.

Ultimate Spider-Man #127 (***1/2)

This is one of those issues that would probably be extremely awesome if I had just read the entire series. However, since it’s been a couple of years since I’ve reread this series, I’m a bit less impressed. Still, I think the issue is pretty good. I’m always a big fan of planning (or at least something that seems planned) and that’s the feeling I got after reading this. My main complaint is that this arc already seemed weak. This issue is almost a complete departure from the arc and yet it concludes in #128?! Weird. But to close on a positive note, I feel like I give Immonen too hard a time on this series (read Nextwave for some awesome Immonen art), but he did a really good job this time. I have to give credit where credit is due.

Top Ten: Comics That Work Best As Monthlies

Recently in the comments section of this post, I brazenly asserted that Batman, by Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel, fails as a monthly comic reading experience. Basically, I feel the plot is too convoluted or complex for easy monthly digestion, although I’m sure it’ll go down very easy in trade.

So, what makes a good monthly comic? A couple of things:

Comics that put “character” first!

Comics that tend to focus more on character than plot are inherently more readable as monthlies. When jumping into the middle of a six issue arc, its character that pulls you in and fills in the holes. With the exception of Fantastic Four, every comic on my list stars a single character.

“Done-in-One (or two)” Stories!

There’s no need to wait for the trade if each arc is only 1-2 issues long, right? Again, this type of story goes well with character writing. Since the plot isn’t required to sustain itself for 3-6 issues, it can be pared down and used primarily as a vehicle to reveal the titular hero’s character. Batman and Zatanna team up to stop the Joker!?! Reading that story you find that it’s not really about catching the Joker as much as it’s  about developing Bruce and Zatanna’s relationship. Also, without really sacrificing the overall plot, these “done-in-one” stories can be framed like TV episodes that when viewed over an entire season combine to reveal a hidden master plot. Think Buffy, Heroes, etc… As many of us know, it can be very intimidating for a new reader to jump onto a book with a long running story, so hiding the plot in this manner is a great way to eliminate that intimidation factor. It also allows the writer to integrate sub-plots with clearly defined conflicts into the background that can be slowly developed and brought to the forefront at a later date, as Mark Millar does in Fantastic Four.

Cliffhangers that punch you in the face!

I mean, does this one really need explanation? There are quite a few comics (many on this list) that use the “final page splash” to great effect in almost every single issue. The rush you get from experiencing these in a floppy is much different than when experiencing them in a trade. Actually, it doesn’t even come close.

Getting that “OMG I can’t wait for next month!” Soap Opera feeling!

Of the four I’ve listed here, I think this last one is probably the most important (although it is very closely related to the Cliffhanger thing). For me, it’s the most important factor in deciding whether or not to wait for the trade. I ask myself, as many of you probably do, “Can I go more than a month without reading about BLANK?!?” If you answer “NO!”, then you obviously have a great monthly in your hands!

With the pretentious explanations out of the way I present to you, in no particular order, my “Top Ten Comics That Work Best as Monthlies”:

ACTION COMICS by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

I could NEVER read this comic in trade; I just love the characters too much! And the cliffhangers are the epitome of punch you in the face. There haven’t been many done-in-ones in the Johns run, but that’s okay, since at least half the comics on this list barely utilize that comic book storytelling device. But Johns does love the sub-plots, wherein he writes some of the best (or, THE best) character moments in comics. CONS: More done-in-ones would be nice.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by “The Spidey Brain Trust”

With the exception of the current arc, “New Ways To Die”, Brand New Day has been nothing but 1-, 2-, and 3-issue arcs filled with character, character, character… the Soap Opera mojo has been strong. Because of the weekly shipping schedule, the Spidey team has been using the last page splash to great effect. CONS: Actually, maybe there are too many characters? Sometimes it gets confusing.

CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting & Luke Ross

All of the above? Without all the little Bucky character stuff, I would not be enjoying this book as much as I am. It’s funny, but to me, most issues of Captain America feel like single issue stories set in an epic tapestry whose true significance won’t be seen ‘til Brubaker ends his run. It’s one long, ongoing story that excites me month in and month out.

DEADPOOL by Daniel Way & Paco Medina

We’re two issues in and I’m in love. For now. Plot? What plot? If you’re looking for a story, you’re in the wrong place, duder. This is all about Deadpool. That’s it. Do you need to read issue one to understand issue two? Hell no! Enjoy the funny!

DETECTIVE COMICS by Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen

Current master of the 1- or 2-part story (yeah, yeah, I know the RIP tie-in breaks the rules). Reading Detective for the last two years I remember more about Bruce sex life (obv lack thereof) than I do the details of any of the stories. And to me, that’s awesome writing. Dini has made Bruce likable. This is new, folks. Bruce Wayne as an actual character in comics? Not since pre-DKR, I would think, have we seen the identity of Bruce Wayne written as a real character. Ah no, I disagree with you, Morrison’s Wayne is a flimsy piece of cardboard. Maybe he had something at the beginning of his run, but fleshing out Batman’s alter ego took a back seat to RIP setup long ago, maybe around the time Adam Kubert left the book. Anyway, yes, Dini isn’t writing Batman, he’s writing Bruce Wayne as Batman. And there is a difference, and that difference is quite refreshing.

FANTASTIC FOUR by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch

The character stuff is lacking, but the sub-plots, cliffhangers and OMG moments make this a top of the stack must-read. Here’s a recent review that reads more negative than it actually is.

GRAVEL by Warren Ellis, Mike Wolfer & Raulo Caceres

The way the current arc is framed, it works wonderfully as a series of single issue stories filled with scenes exploring the character of William Gravel. Oh, you know what? Thank God Ellis finally got around to fleshing this guy out. Gravel started life as a boringly hollow SAS thug who starred in a series of idea-driven minis. In those minis, there was never anything particularly exciting or compelling about the Gravel character and the fact of the matter is, I probably only read them because they were written by Ellis. Now, under the watchful eye of Mike Wolfer, I really grown to like this guy and each month I can’t wait to read Gravel’s next adventure. Shocking. That’s good stuff, brother.

HULK by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness

Heh. I really do love this book. Honest. HA!

INVINCIBLE by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker

Ever since the #51 reboot, this book has been one of the most anticipated monthlies in my stack. LOVING IT… happy now, Bruce?

JACK OF FABLES by Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham

Awesome title character? CHECK!
Outstanding sub-plots? CHECK!
Cliffhangers? CHECK!

Bruce Castle Presents: Smells Like Teen Hero


Invincible #53 (*****)
Man, this stuff is still so good. Again, major props to the art crew. Ryan Ottley rocking the pencils, Cliff Rathburn tracing like there’s no tomorrow, and FCO Plascencia is owning the colors. This book looks gorgeous! Kirkman brings the goods too. After last issue’s shocking violence and ominous finale, we get some realistic teenage angst. Mark has to juggle with his brother being possibly evil, his mother spilling the beans about his identity to her new boyfriend and of course, keeping his new superhero girlfriend happy. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of action to accompany your soap opera. Some plot threads that were established several issues ago are dealt with, a new Fin Fang Foom-esque, sans purple pants, character is introduced, and Invincible pimp slaps a guy. I also have to commend Kirkman for providing endings different from his usual “OMG!!!” stuff. There’s still a little bit of that, but it’s much more subtle. If you’ve been thinking about picking this book up, read issues #51-53. Hopefully you’ll read the previous issues later, but this stuff really is a great “jumping on point”.

Supergirl #34 (****)

There’s about to be a Superman crossover story and this is the team that’s going to handle Supergirl. I have always liked Supergirl, but it’s hard to explain why. She is consistently written poorly. I was pleased to see she got some cool moments in Johns’ current Brainiac storyline and I’m happy to report she’s written well here too. This is more of the human angle for Supergirl. She asks questions that we all ask. Why am I here? Am I doing the right thing? There are plenty of strong character moments. Plus, we get some nice Silver Banshee action and how often do we see that? Also, the book looks pretty. It fits the tone extremely well and it manages to solve an important artistic problem, how do you make a girl with bare midriff and the world’s shortiest skirt not look trashy? My one complaint is why does Supergirl have to cry twice in one issue? It works fine the first time but it is completely pointless the second. Anyway, I’m glad Supergirl is finally getting the treatment she deserves.

Bruce Castle Presents: Spider-Man & Invincible Together Again!

Large Cover of Amazing Spider-Man #571

Amazing Spider-Man #571 (****)

If you like John Romita Jr.’s art and you’re looking for a good time (without alcohol or working girls), then you should probably pick this up. New Ways To Die isn’t changing anything or blowing any minds, but it’s still enjoyable. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that. We who read funny books over the age of 13 always want adult material and hard-hitting stories. We must remember that these are still comics. Real law enforcement has little to do with spandex-clad individuals and pumpkin bombs, but this is the norm when it comes to the realm of comics. So please, immerse yourself in a world full of wonderfully drawn Thunderbolts, symbiotes, and goblins.

Invincible #52 (*****)

The new costume bodes well for Invincible. Just like the last one, this issue is marvelous. There are changes, but it’s an easy transition. The most visually noticeable difference, besides the aforementioned new costume, is FCO Plascencia’s colors. Bill Crabtree was on the book for 50 issues, but as of issue #51 he was replaced by Plascencia. Though I still enjoyed Crabtree’s work, to be frank, he’s easily forgotten. The art looks remarkable! Ryan Ottely is the main attraction of course, but Plascencia has noticeably changed the book’s look for the better. This issue appears to be more violent as well. There are two moments in particular that got a holy this and Jesus that from me. And I handle violence extremely well. So, the book looks great and it’s going in an intriguing direction. As always, I hope the next issue comes out quicker.

Marvel Team-Up #14 inspired my title. Go read this, it’s funny.

Bruce Castle’s 10 Books You Should Be Reading

Ok, I still have a lot more reviews to complete but I felt the urge to do this first. I picked up that second Ellis Thunderbolt HC this week and so I’ve been reading both of those in my spare time. I thought about how much I loved that run and that got me thinking about my favorite books on the shelves right now. So I thought I’d have some fun and put together this list. This is my top 10 current comics list. These are in alphabetical order.

All-Star Superman & Action Comics (tie)

I know I’m cheating already. Don’t worry. This is the only tie on the list. I only did this because All Star is ending in one issue and so after that finishes you can head on over to Action Comics. All Star Superman is one of the best Superman comics I’ve ever read. For those of you who think that Grant Morrison is too dark or too complicated or maybe even a bad writer, you really need to check this book out. It’s a silver age throwback, it’s creative, it’s funny, and it has a heart of gold. Action Comics also features some great Superman stories. Did you like the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies? If so, you should really check this book out. It really does capture a lot of the fun and spirit of those movies. Much like All Star Superman, this book is just plain good storytelling that’s always a pleasure to read. Both of these books treat the man of steel the way he should be treated.

Captain America

I’m sure I don’t even have to mention this book. Everyone seems to love it and with good cause. It’s been a hell of a ride. You can definitely tell that this title is handled with care. Brubaker has a plan and he sticks to it. That’s what has been so fascinating is that everything has a purpose and a reason. He ties things together that occurred thirty issues before. Brubaker brought back a character that had been dead for 60 years and then killed a character that had been loved for 60 years and wasn’t hated for it. Now that is talent.

Final Crisis

This book floored me. To me, it usually seems that almost every major event disappoints, but in only three issues this one has blown me away. It’s intriguing that even with the most veteran of comic readers, their vision always seems hindered while reading a comic. There are a lot of people who will just flip through a comic, admire the art, and briefly scan the dialogue. Things that would be obvious if seen on a screen come off as much more subtle in a comic. I myself have been guilty of this on occasion, but with Final Crisis it feels like my eyes are wide open. I love to just read this book over and over and notice little things here or there or to analyze a certain panels meaning. I’m sure most of you have already had this feeling with a comic before, but this was my comic that made me see the medium in a new and better light. But besides my personal rapport with this comic, I just feel that it’s really good. This is, in my opinion, the way an event comic should be.

Green Lantern

I originally wrote a long Wikipedia type write up about why I love this series. But you can read about that stuff from someone who knows about it more than I do, plus it’s kind of boring. Hal Jordan was a mistreated character. Sure he was an original member of the JLA and had a cool ring, but who cares he had no personality. But Geoff Johns has taken Hal to new heights. He made Hal a character you could actually care about. On top of that, he made the GL mythos more interesting than ever by introducing a new creative concept about multi-colored lantern rings. That and the Sinestro Corps War was a hell of a great event. Now, thanks to Geoff Johns, Hal Jordan is a true A-list hero and this is a top tier book.


This is a book that made Robert Kirkman one of my favorite writers and it’s still running strong. This is always an enjoyable read. It blends familiar superhero ingredients together into a fresh and entertaining comic. So if you’re looking for a fun comic, give this one a try.

Invincible Iron Man

This is still a fairly new book, but I’m putting it on the list anyway. I’ve always been a fan of Iron Man. Sadly, if you’ve been following the Marvel universe for the last few years, you may know the kind of crap I’ve had to deal with. Iron Man has been treated like a villain for what seems like an eternity. Thankfully, Iron Man fans caught a brake this year with the release of the new Iron Man movie. Finally, the golden avenger got some love. In addition to that, he got a new title written by the very talented Matt Fraction. Much like the aforementioned Action Comics captures the spirit of the Superman movies, Invincible Iron Man is definately the book that has the same feel as the Iron Man movie. This is a great Iron Man book and a great comic in general and I hope that continues.

Justice Society of America

Unless you’ve been reading this comic, you’re probably questioning my reasons for putting this on the list. Who cares about the JSA? But that’s the magic of Geoff Johns. Just like he did with Hal Jordan, he makes you care about the JSA. The roster is fairly large right now, and yet Johns makes sure that every character gets some time in each issue. He does this in such a way that it doesn’t seem needless. You can tell there is a purpose. Along with the old members, new characters are also introduced. Some of these characters would be disastrous if handled improperly. Geoff Johns makes everything work in this comic, it’s truly amazing.

Secret Invasion: Thor

This is a bit of an odd pick. Especially considering only one issue has been released, but there is method to my madness. I wanted to give some kind of recommendation to Marvel’s current event, but sadly I haven’t been too impressed with it. The best thing to come out of Secret Invasion is the tie-ins. Some other good SI tie-ins include: Captain Britain and MI13, SI Inhumans, and SI X-Men. Also, I’m a big Thor fan and Matt Fraction has done a fantastic job writing the character with both this series and the Ages of Thunder one-shots. So basically this is kind of a shout out pick, shameful I know. But I really did enjoy this first issue and it promises to be pretty great.

The Walking Dead

This would be the other book that made Robert Kirkman one of my favorite writers. It’s always impressive when a book can still be so good after over 50 issues. But that’s what this is supposed to be, the zombie movie that doesn’t end. If you loved those old George Romero zombie movies, this is a must read. What’s also fascinating though, is that you don’t even have to love zombies to like this book. There are times when the zombies are nothing more than background. It’s about people dealing with a really horrible situation. The first trade is only ten bucks. You really should give it a try.

Young Liars

This is another odd pick. Again it’s fairly new, but that isn’t a bad thing. Young Liars is about as close to a roller coaster ride in comics form as you can get. It’s just so wild and thrilling. It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen next and something crazy happens in just about every issue. The only downside, and this is why I say it’s an odd pick, is because 6 issues have been released and already I’m amazed at how David Lapham can keep this pace up. I’m just worried he’ll make a false step, but until then I’m going to enjoy the incredible ride.

Wow! That took a lot longer than I thought and I wrote a lot more than I expected, but I love comics. I tried to keep a balance between Marvel, DC, and indie titles while still making sure these were books I love. Hopefully I’ll get someone to pick up one of these books. I also hope that I’ll inspire some people to give their own top lists. Thanks as always for reading!

Bruce Castle Presents: Invincible War Heroes!

 Large Cover of Invincible #51

Invincible #51 (****1/2): Oh yeah, you like that highlighted one? It’s got to have first issue appeal then right? Right? Ok, maybe not. Yes, if you haven’t been reading Invincible (You’re a fool!) you shouldn’t pick this up, but instead start on the first trade. You’ll enjoy it though. So yeah I don’t know why Kirkman emphasized the first issue stuff so much, but at least it kind of is a new start. He’s got new threads, new sidekick, and a new girlfriend, oh and a new colorist on the book too. I had a lot of fun with this. There is a lot in it and it’s the usual price. We get a fight with some Kirkman baddies, stuff from last issue gets dealt with, there is quite a few things from earlier in the series that we kind of get little tastes of, and of course those lovely Kirkman character moments. The negatives are the lack of Crabtree (I miss him), the fact that this isn’t much of a jumping on point at least not for a first issue, and of course the very last page. It’ll be interesting to see what most people think of that last page reveal. I’m ok with it, I think, but I’m sure there will be a few moans and groans. It’s an overall great book though.

Large Cover of War Heroes #1 of 6

War Heroes #1 (****): Millar’s plate gets ever larger. Sadly, this is a bad thing because Millar has a certain style that wears thin if you see an overwhelming amount of it like we’re kind of getting now. Millar is known for having a very cinematic style and writing that takes a seemingly conventional idea and makes it fresh and exciting. But we’ve been getting a lot of that with Kick-Ass and even with Wolverine so by now we’re already full of Millar’s particular entree. Having said all that though, I do like this book. The political stuff is a bit too forceful but I still like it and I love that most of it gets wrapped up in 5 pages. I love all the little character moments but like I said it’s very much like Kick-Ass in that this is the “realistic superhero”. I don’t think we get the wonderment that we’re supposed to get, I should have more of a wow feeling when reading this. Still, it’s got that great cinematic Millar feel to it. I wonder if this will be a movie too. Wow, I haven’t mentioned Tony Harris yet. He makes this go from a good book to a great book. The art looks phenominal! Harris was a fantastic choice and Cliff Rathburn’s inks complement it perfectly as he does on Walking Dead. It also looks like this book’s scope is going to expand. I’m excited for the next issue which is always a good thing.

Review: Invincible #50



It’s finally here! If you are any kind of a Robert Kirkman fan, you’ll know that he isn’t the most punctual guy around. The oversized five dollar Invincible #50 is finally at your local store.

First, I’ll just comment briefly on the price. I know for me, just like a lot of you, that five bucks is a bit much. What do you get for that?  We get 24 pages of the regular series, as well as two 12 page back up stories. You’re getting the length of two issues for a dollar less than you would normally pay. That is good, I’m just sad that we didn’t get 48 pages of the regular story.

Well, I believe it’s been about three months since the last issue came out, but if you’ll recall, Invincible is pissed at his long time boss, Cecil Stedman. The issue opens with Invincible in the white room where he can’t see anything but Cecil and apparently five feet in front of him. Invincible is pissed that Cecil is working with bad guys. We get some nice dialogue between the two characters that has seriousness not often seen in Invincible. Invincible is kicking the crap out of all the zombie dudes and it seems like Mark is going to win.

The white lights cut out mid-fight to reveal that Invincible has an entire army left to fight. Cecil gives Mark an out, but Invincible stands his moral ground and refuses. Cecil reaches in his pocket and then Invincible screams in agony. It seems that after the fight with his dad like 40 issues ago, Cecil not only implanted a communicator in Mark’s ear, but also a device to attack his equilibrium. It is always cool when something is brought up about an event taking place many years ago. It usually shows incredible planning by the writer, like what Ed Brubaker is doing in Captain America. So I was impressed by that.

So it seems that this was Invincible’s weakness. Mark wonders what the devices range is and then tries to run. He doesn’t make it. He tries again after stating that breaking out of the pentagon slowed him down before. We then get a two page splash of Mark flying while Cecil is teleporting from place to place unable to catch Invincible.

He finally gets hit right after he busts into the Guardians of the Globe headquarters. Mark explains his situation and Cecil assures them that Mark is crazy and is the bad guy. They finally believe Mark and try to fight off Cecil and the Reanimen. Rex Splode blows up the device that is hurting Mark which of course makes the pulse constant. The Reanimen begin killing Invincible which finally makes Cecil regretful. Mark toughs it out and gets nice and violent after Robot blocks the transmission that is hurting Invincible. Cecil finally says enough is enough and that Invincible is fired and that he doesn’t care what the others do. Before Cecil ports away Mark slams Cecil into the wall, grabs his throat and says that if Cecil ever screws with him again he’ll kill him. Go Invincible!

When Mark gets home, his brother, his mother, and Eve are there. He explains what just happened, Eve and Mark go outside. Will they finally get together and kiss after 50 damn issues?! YES!!! That is the conclusion to the issue and then we get two stories, the secret origin of Cecil Stedman, and some Science Dog.

So that’s it. I think we got what you want out of an issue 50. The world kind of flips upside down, there is a huge fight all issue with some nice dialogue throughout, and finally Mark and Eve get together. All these things made me happy and ready for the next issue. The Cecil story was cool and the Science Dog was kind of fun, but definitely the worst part of the issue. This is kind of the end of part one of Invincible, which is why on the fifty first issue, the one is highlighted, Invincible has a new costume, and his brother is his sidekick. This was a great issue.

4 out of 4 stars